In Delhi, the expansion of middle class homes and commercial complexes at the expense of affordable housing structures for the working class has resulted in the proliferation of unauthorized settlements on public land. Millions of people are forced to live in slum areas and makeshift camps, often employed as labourers in redevelopment project that constitute the basis for further evictions and displacement. This reckless urban planning has resulted in a highly confused and fragmented housing landscape, where a lack safety and security of tenure is the only consistent trait for millions of slum dwellers.
While the problems are varied, a significant challenge stems from different government agencies owning land in Delhi and National Capital Region (suburbs). These agencies have their own policies, schemes and procedures which make advocating on behalf of the urban poor incredibly challenging. To add further confusion, the agencies continuously change their policies through office notifications placing considerable hurdles in legal advocacy efforts. Policies for these different agencies are complicated, contrary and inconsistent, causing great confusion over residents’ rights and entitlements under applicable laws.
Public land owning agencies have attempted to develop strategies to address the lack of affordable housing in Delhi. The Delhi Master Plan 2012 states that around 40% of Delhi housing could be satisfied through rehabilitation or up-gradation of existing slum areas, and places the responsibility for provision of adequate housing with the Delhi Development Authority. Another Government agency, the Delhi Urban Improvement Shelter Board Act, has also developed a framework for rehabilitation of slum areas.
However, as slum dwellers have little awareness of their rights, the path from eviction to rehabilitation is often carried out arbitrarily and with blatant disregard for fundamental safeguards provided by international and national law. Even when slum dwellers are aware of their rights and opt for legal intervention, implementation of court orders or judgments is not monitored by State agencies.
Against this backdrop, the need for a large-scale legal intervention seeking change at policy level has gained ground among civil society organisations and activists. Instrumental to this is a better understanding of the ground situation, which includes the collection of comprehensive data exposing gaps and patterns in failure of implementation of policies and court orders.
Nazdeek, in partnership with University of Chicago is conducting a comparative study which would analyze what slum dwellers face in the path from eviction to rehabilitation in light of the place and type of housing they live in, and the relevant land owning agency regulations. Analysis would consider factors such as eligibility requirements, cut off dates, and access to services.
The study will then be used in developing legal policy framework and also will serve as the basis for a public interest litigation seeking comprehensive, sustainable housing policy for urban poor in Delhi.
In sum, the outcomes of this project will set the basis for a future larger legal intervention seeking change at policy level, while simultaneously informing communities of their legal rights and entitlements.
Picture by: Fireflymultimedia
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